The Pinnacle Guide

THUNDERBOLT

Los Angeles, USA

A technique-driven cocktail bar, Thunderbolt specialises in original ingredients and relentless R&D, while providing a relaxed neighbourhood-style atmosphere. 

AREAS OF EXCELLENCE

AREAS OF EXCELLENCE

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ENVIRONMENTAL ENDEAVOURS

Thunderbolt runs a low-water-waste program,a byproduct of the unique ways in which they produce their cocktails. There is no cube ice machine and none of the 19-menu cocktails are shaken or stirred with ice, meaning there is no dumping of waste ice and no “burning” of an ice well at the end of the night. Moreover, many of the cocktails are precisely diluted with things other than water.

DETAILS OF NOTE

Audio is taken very seriously at Thunderbolt. During construction, the ceiling was completely soundproofed, including acoustic panelling inside the space. Audio is provided digitally or via their technic 1200 turntables routed through a vintage 1985 Macintosh amplifier. The speakers are giant JBL L100 Classics with orange covers made to match the decor. The music is carefully curated, with ambient jazz and world beats setting the mood without overpowering conversation.

The Pinnacle Guide

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Located inconspicuously next to a budget motel on a quiet street, behind Thunderbolt’s unassuming exterior is a technique-driven cocktail destination. Designed by the renowned Denver-based firm Wunder Werkz, the interior boasts a bold colour palette featuring multiple greens, peach, and oranges, complemented by custom kudzu-print wallpaper. Large bay windows offer a unique view of the 101 freeway, creating an aquarium-like effect that adds to the allure of the space, whether day or night. These windows also double as counters of sorts between guests on the patio and those in the bar, creating a unique indoor/outdoor group-seating experience.

Thunderbolt’s space was previously occupied by an underground after-hours nightclub called Dinner House M – infamous and legendary to the neighbourhood. The venue has paid homage to this history with the original lightbox sign marking the way for those in the know. It is worth noting – parking can be a challenge here and may often result in a walk of several blocks. 

The centrepiece of Thunderbolt is its striking marmoreal bar top, adorned with a terrazzo-like pattern of marble shards sourced from UK-based design firm Dzek. The bar facade features customer-facing outlets for phone charging and hooks for bags and coats, enhancing the guest experience. Behind the bar, a custom-milled patchwork of cubby-style shelves displays an array of bottles, records, and vintage audio equipment. Beyond aesthetics, the bar was built to be low impact on bartenders, with plenty of space for multiple bartenders without getting in each other’s way. Lighting too has also been carefully considered – and they proudly adhere to Title 24 – a California program that maximises lighting efficiency based on each fixture’s proximity to natural light.

Despite its hidden location, Thunderbolt has become a beloved neighbourhood haunt, known for its welcoming ambiance and approachable hospitality. There are no reservations or dress codes here – just genuine warmth and a passion for great drinks. The staff, well-versed in both classic cocktails and innovative techniques, are attentive and friendly, making guests feel right at home.

Thunderbolt takes a no-nonsense approach to cocktail-making, focusing on efficiency, sustainability, and, above all, flavour. There is not one cocktail on the menu here that is a simple mix of ingredients shaken or stirred, but instead the bar uses advanced techniques and orders its menus according to how a drink has been prepared – whether it’s a technique or ingredient unique to Thunderbolt. Guests can read concise descriptions of flavour and order drinks based on that or deep-dive into the techniques and ingredients if they’re interested. 

With a team constantly developing new ingredients, the menu changes incrementally and is curated by a collaborative effort, although new drinks will be assigned project leads from the staff. The prep-team here puts in around 50 hours a week, working on ingredients such as shiitake brown butter-washed brandy or centrifugally infused jackfruit rum. Once signed off, cocktails are presented simply with functional garnishes over clear ice. 

The team at Thunderbolt have pioneered and advanced multiple techniques and have actively worked to educate the industry on these. For example – they spent nearly two years developing recipes for their egg white replacement, “sour syrup”, which has received much attention. The complexity of the processes used at the bar means that it takes a new member of staff at Thunderbolt approximately one year to learn everything required to execute the full menu. 

Beyond cocktails, the bar has one of the largest Madeira collections of any US cocktail bar, with over 25 bottles available by the glass. 

The long-standing Thunderbolt team have their local community firmly in their hearts with a fundraising partnership with the Echo Park Trash Club, a volunteer organisation that works with unhoused encampments to provide a healthier shelter situation. 

“I really believe that the staff is what makes Thunderbolt an outstanding bar. Yes, the drinks are very innovative, and the bar absolutely delivers on its mission, but what takes it to the next level is their staff. Everyone was kind and welcoming, and even when it was busy, I never felt rushed or neglected.”

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